I previously posted about the resignation of Capt. (Ret.) Robert P. Taishoff, a major donor to Widener Law School and Chair of the school’s fundraising campaign, Widener Law School loses major donor over Connell case.
I indicated that I had seen the text of Taishoff’s resignation communication, and that it was clear he resigned because of the sanctions imposed by Dean Linda Ammons on Professor Lawrence Connell.
Connell, you will recall, was cleared of charges of racism and sexism, but found to have violated the school’s retaliation policy by defending himself in a letter to the student body and by his attorney threatening to sue the students making the allegations. Dean Ammons recommended a one-year suspension and a requirement that Connell undergo a psychiatric examination, which recommendations were accepted by University President James T. Harris, III.
Now Taishoff has gone public with his reasons in an interview with Delaware Law Weekly:
In his resignation letter, submitted earlier this month to Widener Law Dean Linda J. Ammons, Taishoff indicated that he felt the sanctions the school imposed against Connell were excessive, especially after a university panel exonerated the professor of all but one of the charges against him.
“There was not a nexus between the remedy and the findings,” said Taishoff in an interview with Delaware Law Weekly. “I’m not sure Dean Ammons’ and President [James T.] Harris’ recommendations matched the findings of the committee. The committee found that he did not commit sexual or racial harassment.”
Taishoff later added, “The punishment they doled out did not match the offense he was found to have committed.”
Taishoff, a former student of Connell, took issue with the attempt by the two complaining students to paint Connell as racist:
The two men have known each other since Taishoff was a student in one of Connell’s classes in 1989. As a law clinic student, Taishoff worked with Connell on several appellate cases, including helping with multiple death penalty appeals.
“Larry is not only a professor and a friend, but I’ve worked pro bono cases with him,” Taishoff said. “It is so far out of left field for him to be accused of something like this. He is the kind of guy who says what he thinks, but there is not a racist bone in his body.”
The reasons given by Taishoff in the interview mirror the reasons he gave to President Harris in the resignation communication, which concludes with the following paragraphs:
This entire matter has portrayed the University and the Law School in a terribly negative light.
I do not make this decision lightly and I have thought long and hard about how to proceed. I don’t feel I can work with Dean Ammons on a matter as important as this campaign. I am sorry it has come to this, however I am steadfast in my support of Professor Connell and will not compromise my beliefs in this matter to support Widener University School of Law any further.
According to the Delaware Law Weekly interview Taishoff’s foundation will continue to honor prior commitments including to the Veterans Law Clinic:
“We are going to continue to support the Veterans Law Clinic,” said Taishoff. “I’m not going to punish the school for Dean Ammons’ behavior.”
Later, Taishoff added: “I’m not stomping my feet and pulling money. I’m just not going to work with Dean Ammons. In order to run a successful campaign, you have to work with the dean.”
I have e-mailed Widener for comment, and will update this post if it responds.